In 1823, William Beckford sold the estate to John Farquhar, a gunpowder contractor from Bengal, India. Within 2 years of this sale Fonthill Abbey fell down and Farquhar tried to sell all his land but died in 1826 intestate.
Farquhar had given the Pavilion, the only remains of ‘Splendens’, to his nephew George Mortimer who enlarged the house, built a new stable block and a woollen mill at the southern end of the lake. Mortimer tried to sell this ‘Fonthill Park’ estate in 1829. The sale particulars described the estate in glowing terms: “If Elysium can be contemplated on earth, the claims of Fonthill will be irresistible.” The landscape of the estate is still considered an “Arcadian idyll”.
In the summer of 1829, the Pavilion was rented to James Morrison and his growing family. The holiday was a great success and he bought the property from Farquhar’s heirs – the Mortimers – after protracted legal difficulties.
James Morrison had by this time become a very successful haberdasher and entrepreneur in London with a house in Harley Street and a seat in the House of Commons as Member of Parliament for Ipswich and later the Inverness Burghs. He was described at the time as the “Napoleon of Shopkeepers”. He improved his parkland, repairing Beckford’s grottoes and building some cottages. In 1837 his agent wrote to him that visitors to Fonthill went on to Stourhead, then, on returning, ‘told me that Stourhead was not worthy to be compared to Fonthill.’
By 1844, the Fonthill Park estate had ceased to be his main country home. He had bought Basildon Park in Berkshire (now National Trust). His commitments as MP, investment banker and haberdasher “extraordinaire” were extensive and he had found Fonthill too distant from London, the coach taking 11 hours.